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Soldier’s kin say US talks with Taliban are stalled

HAILEY, Idaho - The parents of the only US soldier held as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan have broken a yearlong silence about the status of their son, abruptly making public that he is a focus of secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban over a proposed prisoner swap.

The negotiations, currently stalled, would trade five Taliban prisoners held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl of the Army, who is believed to be held by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan’s northwest frontier, on the Afghan border. Bergdahl was captured in Paktika Province in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.

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His family has not heard from him in a year, although the Pentagon believes he is alive and well.

Bergdahl’s father, Robert, said in interviews that he was speaking out in frustration over the lack of progress in the negotiations, which he believes are moribund because the Obama administration is under pressure from Republicans in Congress in an election year not to negotiate with terrorists.

Although Bergdahl’s capture and captivity have long been publicly known, the family had kept the prisoner swap negotiations secret at the urging of the administration and out of fear that their son might be harmed. But the talks stalled in January, US officials said, in large part because of Taliban frustration with what the insurgents see as Washington’s dragging its feet over the prisoner swap.

US officials had no comment.

The talks have been at the center of the US strategy for Afghanistan, which envisioned the troop surge of the past two years - along with more aggressive targeting of the insurgency’s field commanders by Special Operations forces - forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

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